It was on this day in the year 19 B.C. that a dedication ceremony was held to initiate the expansion of the Temple under the auspices of Herod the Great. The historian Josephus recorded that:
“In the fifteenth year of his reign, Herod rebuilt the Temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also and the riches about it were unspeakable.”
The buildings of this particular Temple were apparently so lavish that Jewish rabbis of the day, who were not fond of Herod, had to concede that there were few buildings in the world as majestic and as beautiful as Herod’s Temple. While the main parts of Herod’s Temple were completed before his death in 4 B.C., the work actually went on for another 60 years. When Jesus visited the Temple during the first Passover of His ministry, it was said that the Temple had been under construction for about 46 years (John 2:20). The work on the Temple was not entirely completed until the year 63 A.D., just seven years before it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. Consequently, it was had only been completed for seven years before it was destroyed by a Roman prince – but that’s another story.
As grand as it was, there was a glaring flaw in this Temple. The Ark of the Covenant, which was considered as God’s throne on earth, and the Urim and the Thumim were not present in this Temple. With the absence of those components which represented the presence of the Creator and the means to obtain direction from Him, it would seem that Herod’s Temple was not, at all, as it appeared to be. In other words, it wasn’t really serving God’s intended purposes where the Sanctuary was concerned, at least not fully. Furthermore, even as construction continued on the project, Messiah prophesied of its ultimate destruction.
“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’” (Matthew 24:1-2)
Perhaps the Messiah was letting us know that it doesn’t matter how beautiful something looks or even how godly it looks on the outside; what matters is what’s on the inside. Where the Temple was concerned, it was God’s Presence that mattered. Unfortunately, many of those who adored the Temple of Herod didn’t recognize the very One it was supposedly dedicated to. They failed to recognize Him, in large part, because they were focusing too much on outward appearances and the doctrines of men rather than what Messiah was saying and doing, that is, the perfect will of the Father.
Is it possible that had the leaders hailed Him as Messiah and King, things might have turned out differently for the nation and for the Temple? We’ll never know but here is something we must know: as Temples of the Holy Spirit, His people must not be devoid of His Presence. When people encounter us, they should be more impressed by who dwells in us more so than what we look like on the outside. If He does not dwell in us, then the world is merely gazing upon a white washed sepulcher containing dead men’s bones.
When people see this temple – our bodies – what they see on the outside needs to be a true reflection of what is on the inside. If they see someone who is wearing the trappings of righteous living, they should also perceive a heart within that person that is inclined to righteousness and not self-righteousness. If we are truly to be His Temple, then He must be enthroned upon our hearts and our lives be filled with His Spirit. We must strive to walk upright before Him that His presence may continually reside within us for all to witness. Let us determined, today, to be that living, thriving temple of the Holy Spirit.